Capitalism is Freedom

Capitalism is Freedom

This is part of a series called Capitalism Is. It is not meant to be persuasive; I just want to look at how capitalism in practice works and affects society.

I was born a few months after the violent revolution in Romania in 1989. My birth certificate is a scribbled out form from the previous regime. It still says “Socialist Republic of Romania” but a nurse crossed out “socialist” everywhere she could see it.

My parents didn’t remember much before communism. They grew up and lived most of their lives in a world few of us can imagine. Religion was banned, commerce was controlled and state-owned. My mother notes to me, there were a few good things: Blind people could get jobs sewing the bindings of books. Those with disabilities were no longer ignored or abandoned. Industries popped up very quickly in the beginning. The good things end here.

I can’t imagine what it must have been for my parents to see their second child born in a free world. My father’s life was constantly under threat because he smuggled books – believing the power of the written word could free others. My parents conspired and fought to bring and end to communism. And they won. Winning, after a life of trauma and abuse, was not as sweet as they had hoped.

I grew up in a confusing, lost world. Despite minor recoveries, there were still times when food was hard to come by. Because of this, most of my childhood was gray and I don’t think back to it often. The best moments were spent in rural Romania where I herded sheep and chased cats. I could forage food and catch fish. I was the master of my destiny. When I’d go back to the city, the world became a little gray again. After an entire generation living only in communism, people do not naturally spring back up, recover, and start businesses.

But as early as I can think back to, I remember that there was always a glimmer of hope. That hope was called America. For others it was Germany. Still, others wanted to go to Austria or France. My father always told me that America was the land of opportunity. He told me in America anyone can succeed. He was a fan of American self-help get rich quick type books. My parents encouraged me to have dreams and dream big because they believed there was a a place in the world where my dreams wouldn’t be a disappointment like theirs had been. They believed – more than you can imagine, in the most naive way – in the promise of America. They believed it so much they risked their lives to come here.

At that time, I believed America was a store. I had seen pictures of stores where you couldn’t see the end – WalMart – and believed this was America. I was impressed.

I know many people think America being the land of opportunity is a farce or exaggeration. I can guarantee you, it is not. Twenty years after my mother and father made good on their promise and brought me here, I am still enamored with the freedom I have to create value and sell it. I can turn my creativity into a nice house, or food, or anything I want. No, America isn’t perfect. But it is free, in a way many other places are not. A famine could happen, but I wouldn’t feel helpless. It is a very very different experience and approach to life.

One last point I want to make. My mother was a child laborer in a rural village. She picked plants on a farm as a child. She had no toys growing up – she would make dolls out of corn husks. She can remember in detail every single time she got new fabric to make herself and her sisters new clothes. My mother worked very hard in Romania to be educated. She would have been a doctor but was not accepted to the school because she was pregnant – despite being top in her class. She then worked tenfold in America to build a life for her family. There is no other country on earth where she could have had this type of social mobility. Every time I feel like complaining, I think back to my mother showing me her corn-husk dolls. Every time I think there’s too much work to do, I remember that I was raised by a woman who increased her net worth more than a million-fold by sheer will and positivity. When we first moved to America, things were hard, so my mom always tried to keep things positive. She hung up posters around the house that would say stuff like “Success is 1% luck and 99% attitude.”

Stuff like this makes me feel like my mother, accent and all, is one of the most American people you will ever meet. The freedom a capitalist system gives its members should not be ignored. Sometimes you need to hear the story from the other side to really feel the gratitude and the freedom.

Don’t steal habits from the greats, steal their rationale

Don’t steal habits from the greats, steal their rationale

A whole industry has cropped up around the habits of great artists, entrepreneurs, and other successful people. Are they morning people or late-night workers? Are they vegetarian? Do they drink their coffee black or opt for green tea? All these questions and more can be answered in a myriad of books and blogs designed to help you get to the next level by doing what other people do.

Now, I enjoy a biography every now and then, even though they are some of the most anti-historical histories. They are far too generous, but enjoyable to read. Like most humans, I seek heroes and their myths to latch my own hopes upon.

We have to be careful when we start doing data analyses on the habits of greatness. If its not obvious by now, greatness is not determined by your sleep-awake cycle.

When I was younger, I loved the classic artists like Michelangelo or Leonardo Da Vinci. I saw them as creative builders and employable (hah.) After studying many more artists, my preferences diluted and I can’t say I have a favorite anymore, but Van Gogh has always stood out to me for one reason: output. Despite being the least employable great artist of Europe, Van Gogh created more work in 10 years than most artists make in a lifetime.

When people discuss increasing your output as a creator, Van Gogh’s habits are not revered. No one in their right mind can suggest that eating your own paint, substance abuse, and self-harm will turn you into a great artist. Some people will say Van Gogh was just crazy and his success was a fluke. My inspiration and kinship with Van Gogh has always stemmed from my admiration for his self-help through making art. He wasn’t looking to make more art in 10 years than most artists make in their lifetime. I am 100% sure that was never his goal. He was trying to survive, to feel, to express what was inexpressible in order to feel like it was worth living. So perhaps the lesson we can take from Van Gogh is: if you want to increase your output, your output needs to be crucial to your survival. Finding a crucial purpose for your work seems a lot harder than waking up at 5am and drinking green tea to get your creative juices flowing, isnt it?

You thought you could be a great world-changing entrepreneur by just mimicking Bezos’ morning routine, right? It sounds insane when I put it that way, but that’s the idea these books and bloggers are selling.

So take a different approach – look at the greats you admire and think about the challenges they met every step of the way. What was their rationale behind certain decisions? What was their rationale behind developing certain habits? If you used the same rationale – what kind of life and habits would you have?

Remember that the “greats” have the privilege of being biographized by their superfans. They are human, after all, as flawed as you. There are also plenty of other greats that never became famous or perhaps fell out of favor with historians and nobody teaches about them anymore.

In conclusion, I do think there is value in studying and having role models. My criticism of the “habits” obsession is that it doesn’t go deep enough. Think about your role models as real human beings, and accept that if you are to achieve what they have achieved, you will have to feel similarly to what they felt. Pressured, lost, self-confident, innovative, brave, isolated, self-defining and/or rebellious. There are no short-cuts.

The AI innovations of the last two decades in simple English

The AI innovations of the last two decades in simple English

In 1997, a little game called Age of Empires came out. For those of you not familiar with it, it’s a real-time strategy game where you create and arrange different pieces of a civilization in order to advance through different ages and defeat your enemies! To start, you create villagers that collect resources. Later on, you use those resources to update various technologies or create military or other units to support your goal of world domination.

You can play against other players, but you can also play against an AI player. A year later, Age of Empires II came out, with slightly improved gameplay and AI. The AI in both of these games highlight the limitations and design style of artificial intelligence systems of that era.

AI in the 90s

The original AI is marked by some very predictable patterns for each level of difficulty. The hardest difficulty of AI notably cheats – it gets more resources by default. Other than this, the AI has a pretty standard modus operandi – it builds an army made up of 1 or 2 unit types, which is not considered diverse enough by most players. On a forum discussing this topic, a player noted that a distinct feature of the original AI is “you can start to predict what it’s going to do after 1-2 games.” While the AI is reactive to its circumstances, it operates based on some pre-defined paths. For example, the AI is not smart enough to gauge that in certain battles, retreat is better. The AI simply goes from directive to directive: gain more resources, attack (keep attacking no matter what), and so on. The computer pays no mind to the variations in your play – it tends to behave the same way over and over.

The very first AI couldn’t even build walls around settlements. This was fixed in 1999.

Over time, new installments of the game added features to the AI, such as messaging. The AI would pick out of 30 or so canned messages to threaten you every so often, sometimes reacting to your behavior in the game. It was entertaining, but still fairly limited.

The best feature of the original AI was unit movement. AI can always outrun you. Unit speed is often based on a pretty difficult calculation of multiple bonuses that stack. As a human player you click around trying to run away as fast as possible, but AI can easily move the perfect angle based on the unit’s calculated speed to avoid attack and quickly move back to attack you. For this reason, beginner players still lose against AI in small battles that heavily depend on the angles you move your units along. This feature seems to be the same or slightly better today, with no major changes.

So far, we have artificial intelligence that has a couple pre-defined actions it can take. During the game, it will calculate benefits and losses in order to decide actions. Once it chooses an action, it does not stop (no retreats.) Additionally, the AI is great at fast geometric calculations, making unit movement far superior to what most humans are capable of.

AI Today

To truly explain the difference between then and now, we can look at the rebooted version of Age of Empires II: HD Edition.

The new AI calculates the benefit and loss of every single micro-decision. Instead of having a bulk action like, “Make a new mine and set 3 villagers on it,” it will decide every individual action separately based on what is happening. Let’s say a mine is needed. It will begin building the mine. If something happens – say, an attack on the other side of the map, it will cancel the mine if there is a more efficient action.

Let’s assume a mine is built. At this point, it will assess again, can I afford to still put a villager on this mine? If nothing changed in the last few minutes, the answer is most likely yes. It will make the decision on how many villagers to put on the mine and how fast based on what is happening on the entire map economically and militarily.

In certain cases, it might put 3 villagers on the mine exactly like the original AI, but in all the edge cases which make or break games, it will behave quite differently from the original AI.

Not only does the modern AI make smaller individual decisions, it also accesses many more data points. The goal was to mimic the decision making process of real human players. In fact, players of this game describe the new AI as “strategizing like a human being.”

That’s cool, but not mind-blowing

Well, it’s not. The advances behind modern AI are rooted in hardware. The original developers of Age of Empires were definitely smart enough to mimic a human’s strategizing, but no consumer machines would be able to do that much processing without slowing down the game.

While AI varies by application, I think this is a good sampler of the last two decades of development. Software developers simply trail hardware. As hardware gets cheaper and faster, software AI will be able to collect much more data, process it much faster, and make decisions much more often, leading to higher quality results. The modern AI quality is generally smarter than humans, if only because we can no longer easily predict the behavior of AI systems in order to out-strategize them.

That being said, tons of people have managed to beat the hardest new AI. Youtube has plenty of examples of wins against the hardest new AI within 20 minutes (Most human vs human games last 2+ hours.) We’re still winning. And by “we”, I mean very few humans who have mastered the game.

Does this surprise you?

Humans still have the ability to intuit, test theories, and deduce. The computer by default is aware of more data than we are – a human can’t possibly constantly calculate the cost and opportunity cost of a bunch of units using all different resources. It’s too much math. Humans still generally play with pre-set strategies (like the original AI) that change depending on circumstances (like the new AI.) On top of that, they have other skills and abilities we have not yet re-created. One example is experimenting and testing theories. It’s only a matter of time before these skills are also codified via machine learning and added to AI models, as long as there we have hardware fast enough to support it in real-time gameplay.

Moving past experimentation, humans also can compose and design. These are higher order types of thinking. We have modeled our emotional ranges fairly well, but haven’t figured out yet how to aid AI with emotion. My feeling is that emotion helps humans with decision-making much more than we think. What’s exciting about AI is that it forces us to think more and more about our own intelligence and mental abilities, figure out a way to model it, and then wait for the hardware that can run it.

Feminism today:

Feminism today:

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum—even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.”

― Noam Chomsky, How the World Works

The smart way to be a millennial.

The smart way to be a millennial

Look around, everything is smart now. From smart TVs to smart watches to Buzzfeed articles about “The smart way to x,” it seems that millennials are pretty insecure about their intelligence.

If something is genuinely smart, it doesn’t need to style itself as smart. Something smart is apparent to anyone who understands it. The marketing indicating that this or that product is “smart” only indicates to me that:

  1. They hired a good designer who works in the minimalist Scandinavian style.
  2. They either have no other benefits or don’t know how to explain them.


If smart is used in a blog post, like “The smart way to run,” I can only assume:

  1. This is, in fact, probably the wrong way to run.
  2. It is in opposition to most experts for the sake of being in opposition.
  3. I will be ‘smarter’ if I don’t read it.


They never really mean ‘smart’ by it’s traditional definition. They mean ‘short-cut’ or the modern meaning of the word ‘hack’ 🤮

Outside of blogging, smart is a way to advertise products that collect and process data. This is a poor use of language, since being smart is obviously a lot more than sensing and processing. Sensing and processing is simply perception. I think “aware watches” and “aware tvs” sounds too creepy for marketing departments, and “perceiving devices”/”perceptual devices” is even worse.

The word ‘smart’ is used as ‘short-cut’ but also because it has a connotation of status. The world used to belong to the rich, the strong, the fighters – and now it belongs to the ‘smart,’ that got bullied in high school. It’s a cultural fantasy and trope.

Me? I don’t want to be smarter. I’m already smart, and it sucks. I live my life surrounded by stupidity. I’m smart enough to even be painfully aware of my own stupidity. I slug along one sigh after another, knowing that most mistakes are not worth correcting and that my own outnumber my awareness. I don’t want my objects to be more aware, either. I don’t want more data, more tracking, or more mechanical insight.

I appreciate machine learning and big data for what it is, and I appreciated it very much when completing my Capstone project at UCLA – but that was research, not product. I don’t want this stuff in my products for several reasons.

I want less data, even at the expense of losing “insights.” I don’t trust these insights, because I know how they are generated, and I know that they are mostly wrong. Don’t mistake “Data Science” for a practice with scientific rigor. Scientific rigor is usually too inefficient to bring to market, and it requires the possibility of bad results, which businesses don’t allow for. Academia generally does, but is still not perfect.

I want less devices, even if these devices expand my abilities as a human beings in terms of information accessibility and knowledge. Yes, I know almost everything at the click of a button, but my internal human insights are stifled in this endless search for (inaccurate) information.

I want to think less, even if that means everyone else races past me at the speed of light in what they succeed and build and sell. My joys in life are simple: books, flora, fauna, laughing, making stuff. I’m glad I knew this young: there is no benefit for me to being ‘smarter.’

I want less smart, because it’s a dishonest synonym for “short cut”, and a misleading one that appeals to the tragic drive of (some) millennials: their need to succeed – a concept most of us cannot define for ourselves.

Kids are going to extreme lengths to reclaim the power of the internet

Kids are going to extreme lengths to reclaim the power of the internet

Have you heard of niche memes?

They are collage or clipboard images, generally on Instagram, where pre-teens and teens share personal stories and opinions through completely anonymous accounts. Unlike finstas and rinstas, no one in their “real lives” knows about these accounts, so they can be brutally honest about their issues, struggles, and feelings.

The result is what my generation had in LiveJournal: online personas that gave us power outside of our sad highschool lives.

Instead of a depressed highschooler, I was another being online. An artist-coder-rebel that shared art with over 30,000 other teens. I ranted about body image issues, my parents, boys, depression, and everything else that goes through a teen girls head. I was protected from negativity because nobody really knew who I was – and I could also be honest unlike my real life where I had to fall in line and behave. Online, you can try out all sorts of identities, which was crucial to me. I ended up finding my voice and gaining a huge following. I learned how to connect with large amounts of people by being transparent. Despite the fact that most of the world feels pretty fake, I learned that people can spot honesty, and they respond very well to it. This was the basis for what ended up being the way I communicated with my customers a few years later, when I started my first online company. It was easy for us to connect online, but it’s hard for teens now.

Instagram tracks your device, so even if you try to make a new account, it will recommend your account to your real-life connections to follow. You can delete every app on your phone, reinstall everything, disallow access to your contacts, and it still knows who you are connected to. This makes it very hard to make a niche account. If real life people start seeing the super honest stuff you say online – you’re screwed. So, teens go to extreme lengths to protect their identities and have the simple ability to privately share through a made-up online persona.

Accounts disappear often because of issues with location tracking and being identified.

I feel bad for these kids for how many hoops they have to jump through to get a little privacy and experience connecting and relating to perfect strangers online. It was so much easier, and strangely, safer, during my teens.

As a product person, it’s obvious to me that this is what users want, and none of the social media platforms, with their insatiable hunger for our data and serving the needs of their advertisers, will give it to them. I wonder if Facebook even considers end-users their primary users, or if everything is now geared to advertisers from the very top. It feels like it.

A new social media revolution is coming, and it will be driven by 13-year-olds, who are sick and tired of being tracked.

Capitalism is Isolation

Capitalism is Isolation

This is part of a series called Capitalism Is. It is not meant to be persuasive; I just want to look at how capitalism in practice works and affects society.

If you have the pleasure of working for startups, at some point you will be told that you’re family. I didn’t notice the inaneness of this statement when I first heard it. I genuinely thought, “How nice.” Sometimes a job can feel like family. Your co-workers are your friends – you laugh together. Your company gives you a good deal on health insurance and gives you time off when you need it. You might even lower your salary because the company seems nice to work for. This is pretty cool. But wait – what does this have to do with family?

Family is a social unit consisting of people related by blood or the choice to permanently be part of the same group. Nobody pays you to be in a family. You help out your family members, then they help you out, and we don’t keep tabs. I’m honest with my family members. I make sacrifices for them. We all want each other to be happy and fulfilled – whatever that means to us. We judge each others decisions for the other’s benefit. We know each other deeply. We might disagree, but always have each other’s back. I hope you see how a company can never be family. But for people without families, this false promise from a capitalist entity can trap them in psychologically manipulated servitude.

The truth is, capitalism is isolation. You are a sole entity, and you have to protect your own interests. For a time, you will work for the interests of your firm, if in turn the firm supports your interests. When that firm no longer provides what you want, loyalty is up for sale. This is not a bad thing – this is just how the free market works. Are you disloyal if you found a brand of toothpaste you like better than what you previously purchased? Not at all. Companies, even those who might call you family, are buying your services like you buy toothpaste. It is completely reasonable that at some point they might find a better way to do business than with your services. You should expect this. Business relationships are temporary. They are nothing like family.

This isolation is perhaps why strong family structures are crucial to capitalism. In a dog-eat-dog world, your pack is your greatest asset. 🐺

Capitalism is Addiction

Capitalism is Addiction

This is part of a new series I will do called Capitalism Is. It is not meant to be persuasive; I just want to look at how capitalism in practice works and affects society. I realize the title is a bit clickbaity, but it’s 2018 and this is the internet.

Smoking kills. We all know this. Even people who smoke know this. There are some misconceptions as to how smoking kills – the public service announcements focus on lung cancer even though most smoking deaths occur because of vascular diseases. But I digress, smoking kills about half of its users early and unpleasantly and therefore is excise taxed and banned in certain public places.

Most capitalist societies enact regulations like the ones above to protect its citizens. This is good.

If we look deeper at this issue, we see a pretty big problem. If smoking kills, and the information about how smoking kills and at what rates is easily available online, why do people still smoke, especially those in high-risk groups?

Because humans are very bad at making decisions that benefit them. Now, just because I don’t smoke doesn’t mean I’m smarter than smokers, or any better at making decisions. I went to a school with a smoke-free campus, lived in Santa Monica for a while, with its very strict smoking laws, and live in California, where everyone shames smokers. Plus, my family would have a cow if I was a smoker. Therefore, I have enough pressure not to smoke.

I’m still a human and more specifically an animal. I am still terrible at making decisions. I like short-term gains like delicious meals. Social pressure (again) has caused me to start running for 20 minutes daily.

Okay – so where does capitalism come into play? Well, when selling a product or service on the free market, you want it to be as addictive as possible. You want repeat purchases and customer advocates. Do people talk more about their favorite ice cream or their health insurance plan? Short term gains have higher NPS. I’ve been in many meetings where we brainstormed how to make our product or service more addictive. This is not a nefarious thing. We looked at the customer needs, the benefits, how we could make their life easier, save them money, or give them delight.

Sometimes, in these meetings, I think about the long-term benefit of what we’re doing. Is this serving the customer long-term? Could there be a better choice for them? The answers vary, because the products and services vary. I’ve definitely worked on fantastic products where we were providing very clear short- and long-term benefit to our customers. This way, we could make it both addictive and beneficial. But it takes thoughtfulness, and providing real benefit is not always profitable and even more often not knowable. Because even I, your thoughtful internet guide, am wrong. A lot.

Capitalism evolves based on human decisions, which are often bad. Regulatory bodies try to prevent abuses, but regulatory bodies are also run by humans, who also make bad decisions, no matter how educated or informed they are. For example, the misleading marketing that smoking causes lung cancer. People know way less lung cancer sufferers than vascular disease sufferers. Lung cancer might be more visual, but it also gives people the illusion that the danger of smoking is overblown or exaggerated. This is just a theory I have – I have no evidence that more accurate marketing would cause people to smoke less and increase their lifespan.

I know I sound a little cynical in saying all humans suck at decision-making. But hear me out – It’s more helpful to be aware of your innate inabilities than to convince yourself you got it because you read a book about it. Simply put, you are a human driven largely by emotion just like all your mammal ancestors. I am always fascinated by how similar dogs are to us – self-centered in a silly, endearing way; jealous; passionate; curious; playful; communicative; easily distracted; uncontrollably focused on food and gain. I think less confidence in our abilities would yield better results. Yes, x might feel good, and you might keep wanting to do it or spend money on it, but remind yourself every now and then, that you have uncontrollable urges to fulfill ancient emotional needs and they might not benefit you long-term. Additionally, most industries are sold and marketed to appeal to them, even if unwittingly.

Food for thought. 🍔

Doing your job is not an excuse to not point out the problems in your organization.

Stop doing your job. Start doing you.

I once had a co-worker that hated his boss. It wasn’t a strong personality clash – it was a work-style clash. The boss was kind of new to “being a boss” and tried his best, but often fell short by being late to meetings, demotivating the team, not being clear with priorities, and blowing up when things went wrong. My co-worker, we’ll call him Tyler, could point out all of the boss’ shortcomings and in fact had really great suggestions for the boss to do better.

The problem is Tyler never told his boss what he really thought.

His reasoning is that he needed to know his place and respect hierarchy. Speaking out was a risk.

This is a problem.

The hierarchy in your job is constructed. Your boss is by no means superior to you in thought or performance. People become bosses because there was a vacuum of power, they got lucky, they performed well as an individual contributor, or they handled managing some important project very well. Sometimes this translates to being a good model and manager for other employees, sometimes it doesn’t.

It’s one thing to not vibe with your boss because of personality or even politics – but those issues are generally not a big deal, from what I’ve seen. People bond over getting things done and reaching goals together, no matter their differences.

What really irks me is the emphasis on hierarchy. As I stated in previous blogs, the start of my career was in startups, incubators, and in generally horizontal hierarchies. I didn’t know how to function in other types of organizations, but I learned quickly. My first week at an agency – I received a handful of meeting invitations. I thought a few of them were not relevant to my work, so I declined.

I was then taken into an empty conference room and several managers explained to me that it was not appropriate for me to decline a meeting invite. Through the months I had other such meetings, informing me that I could not criticize others’ work since they were not “below” me. On and on, I learned to “know my place” and “respect hierarchy.”

How did this provide value to the organization? I was a skilled expert with experience, and I slowly started keeping my experience to myself. I stopped trying to improve the organization. This is what Tyler was doing, too.

It’s clear that this is bad for the organization, but I believe it’s bad for you too. You are learning to be useless.

One of the best jobs out there is “consulting.” You go into an org, and you use your experience to give them a couple pieces of advice. This is the direct opposite of what most orgs teach to to do. Strange, isn’t it?

No, there’s no conspiracy. Honestly, most people don’t know how to run businesses. They think hierarchies work, and believe that employees are single skilled output machines, instead of thoughtful contributors to collaborative goals.

While it may seem obvious that the best thing Tyler can do is tell his boss what he really thinks, when we find ourselves in those types of situations, we falter. That initial “training” kicks in. It’s not my place. It’s not my job.

Well, maybe you should stop doing a “job”, and start being you. Your opinions are valid, useful, and contribute to the larger success of your organization. Silence contributes to all the “communication issues” people like Tyler find themselves dealing with.

If you want to work in a good, positive, dream work environment, it starts with you choosing to leave your job behind for a higher calling: being you.

Even if you are paycheck to paycheck, but don’t have a lot of bills, you can handle getting fired every now and then. Getting fired is good for the soul, especially if it’s because you stood up for how you think business should work. If you have a lot of bills/dependents, working contract might be the only path to a better type of work environment.

Stop encouraging girls to code for a living

Stop encouraging girls to code for a living

Some people argue that women lack the intelligence, are too emotional, or don’t handle stress well enough to be engineers. Yeah, no. That’s not what this is about.

There’s groups out there who are driven by the idea that we need to get more women in engineering in America. I don’t get why. Women should do whatever they want, but why specifically push them to engineering?

To start, women in engineering (in Coastal America) are paid less, especially at the start of their careers. Women in their early 20s can be paid as little as 50% of what their male counterparts are paid. There’s a lot of reasons for this. My former professor Miriam Posner wrote an insightful article in The Guardian about this issue. All the while, the pay gap is closing in other industries, and in some, women are making more than men.

Engineering teams are hit and miss. No one wants to start a job anticipating they will have to talk to HR. I’ve worked on great engineering teams with amazing energy and lots of laughs, but I’ve also found myself in a handful of uncomfortable situations that don’t happen in marketing.

To get paid more – you have to switch jobs. This is pretty standard for everyone who codes. But switching jobs comes with a lot of questions for girls.

What kind of career can you have when you’re not really quite sure if you’ll be accepted at your next team? Along with the risk of being paid less, passed on for promotions, and generally tokenized – it ain’t a fun ride.

Jobs that have been traditionally done by men – construction, lifting heavy objects, repetitive tasks – are all at risk of automation. Women’s work – traditionally more empathy-based and requiring softer skills – will rise in demand in the next 5-10 years and will not be automated for a while longer. It is important for women to focus on their soft skills, especially leadership, listening, and people management. These skills are important to every field, even technical ones. Learning a specific technical skill is not as helpful long-term as, say, learning how to effectively communicate about technical problems with non-technical listeners.

So my advice to other women is: do 👏 literally 👏 anything else other than engineering. Be a youtube beauty guru. Start a for-profit career counseling firm for high schoolers. Go to clown school. Be an instagram model. I believe groups and organizations that heavily promote females in engineering are doing more to hurt women than to help them.

Keep in mind – I started coding as a child for fun. I had no idea what I was getting into and my parents were thrilled I was teaching myself stuff. To be fair, I come from a country where STEM is not male-dominated. I did not grow up with negative self-perception about my gender and technical careers, and I still don’t have any. I love building stuff with code! But I don’t really wanna work in engineering in the US, and I think it’s a fair choice.

Yes, if you want to code, definitely do it, but if you want to code for work, be fully aware of the risk you are taking every single time you accept a new gig. Engineering teams can be very aggressive, 4chan-like boys clubs, or they can be welcoming and supportive learning environments! I don’t think we should sugar-coat the gamble.